WND: While millions of people grapple with questions about what really happens when they die, now a brand-new book is probing what might actually happen to people’s beloved pets.
The title of the book asks the timeless question, “Do Our Pets Go to Heaven?” and features biblical analysis of the issue, along with amazing stories of pets that saved people and provided companionship as well as healing.
“I must admit I cannot recount the number of times when, as a pastor of more than two decades and as a public and media personality since, I have been approached by an adult or child – eyes filled with questions – who wanted to ask me very sincerely if I believed their pets would go to heaven,” says Tom Horn, who co-authored the book with Terry James and other contributors.
“It seems to be one of the biggest secrets in Christianity,” Horn continued, “that our Western mindset has made it difficult to discuss what people in other countries as well as theologians down through time believed to be an important and theological question. Most are also usually unaware that the Bible itself has some important things to say about the issue, and that many celebrated theologians and philosophers – past and present – concluded a long time ago based on these Scriptures that our pets most likely will be in heaven.”
Video: Do Our Pets Go To Heaven?
Ironically, the Bible itself doesn’t even say the ultimate reward of saved men and women will be floating on clouds in the sky, but it does indicate Jesus Christ will raise His true believers from the grave, grant them eternal life, return to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and rule with them here on planet Earth.
Yet there are plenty of verses in Scripture indicating the presence of animals in the coming kingdom of God.
The prophet Isaiah is famous for this future glimpse depicting people dwelling with animals, whose aggressive nature will have been reprogrammed and tamed by God in the kingdom:
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6–9)
Horn writes in a chapter of his book:
Indeed, we find that God values His living artistry so much that He even made some of the angelic beings to reflect the animal’s faces (see Revelation 4:6–8; Ezekiel 10:14). In addition to their artistic value, God loves the company of these creatures to the point that not even a tiny sparrow falls to the ground that He doesn’t account for (Matthew 10:29). Another amazing example of God’s concern for animals comes from the story of Jonah, in which it appears that the people of Nineveh were spared destruction because God wanted to have mercy on their children and animals (see Jonah 4:11)! Of course, to the delight of my wife, Nita, God is an equestrian and has already filled Heaven with lots and lots of horses (Revelation 6:2–8; 19:11; 2 Kings 6:17). His Son, Jesus, will even return someday on one such horse (Revelation 19:11–14).
It is further written in the Bible that:
- God holds the lives of animals in His hands (Job 12:10).
- He, Himself, feeds them (Psalms 104:21–30; Matthew 6:26).
- They were created for His enjoyment (Revelation 4:11).
- God never forgets about them (Matthew 10:29; Luke 12:6).
- People who mistreat their pets are judged by Him as “cruel” (Proverbs 12:10).
- Those who treat their pets kindly are called “righteous” (Proverbs 12:10).
Horn notes the idea of pets in heaven is not some rogue notion among famous Christians, stating, “Billy Graham, C.S. Lewis, Mark Hitchcock, Dr. David Reagan, and hundreds of other clergy and theologians agree that the chances are very good our pets will be in heaven.”
When Graham was once asked by a little girl whose dog had died that week whether her pet would be in heaven, he replied, “If it would make you any happier, then yes, he will be.”
Horn also cites verses in Scripture stating it won’t be just resurrected human beings offering praise to God in the future:
Animals are included with men as those who are commanded to praise the Lord! This was true in the Old Testament in places such as Psalms 148:10–13, where we read:
“Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.”
And this amazing fact – that animals praise the Lord – will also be true in the future, as they are seen offering praise unto the Lamb of God extending into eternity in Revelation 5:13:
“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
But the idea that pets go to heaven or have a similar reward to obedient human servants of God is certainly not ubiquitous among faithful believers who study the Bible.
Among them is Philip Shields, a Christian speaker and online host of LightontheRock.org, who stresses there’s a clear distinction in the book of Genesis at the time animals and mankind were created.
“Elohim (God) spoke all things – including animals – into existence,” he explained. “But to mankind only did He breathe His breath into. All humans have a spirit in man, and that spirit goes back to God after our death. But not animals’ spirits.”
He cites Ecclesiastes 3:21, which states: “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit (breath) of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”
Shields says, “It is this spirit in man that gives us mind (Job 32:8), enabling there to be an interface with God’s spirit so we can understand godly things, which animals don’t. Animals have their own breath, ruach [in Hebrew], or spirit, but that goes back to the earth. Man is the only one that God did mouth-to-mouth on. That did not happen to hippopotamuses and alligators, or to dogs or cats. I think that’s an important distinction, that they don’t have the breath of God.”
“I’d love to think my beloved Duchess would be resurrected or something, but I don’t think so,” he added.
“And where do you draw the line? Are the bad animals – maneaters, for example – burning in hell? Is every cockroach or mongoose or tarantula up there, too, by the billions and trillions? How about the trillions of ants and mosquitoes? And if not, why not?”
Shields also asks rhetorically, “Did Christ die for animals, too? Can animals sin?”
Anyone searching the Internet for answers about pets going to heaven will find no shortage of posts on the matter.
ClarifyingChristianity.com offers a study on the matter, and agrees animals will be present in God’s coming kingdom. However, it points out “the question is ‘Were these animals new creations or do these animals include reborn earthly creatures?’”
By the end of its treatment, the site says, “The Bible is silent regarding an afterlife for animals. However, we do have one hope. The key passage for this question does not deal with animals directly, but rather God’s promise to those who inherit God’s kingdom – those people who have gotten right with God and will go to heaven themselves. For them, the passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 2 [verse 9] applies:
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’”
“Obviously, what God has prepared for us is wonderful beyond comprehension. Therefore, love your pets as much as you can while they are here. Those of us who go to heaven will later understand that everything worked out perfectly regarding our pets.”
December 3, 2013 Posted by justonemorepet | Adopt Just One More Pet, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, We Are All God's Creatures | Billy Graham, books, cats and dogs, companion animals, Dog and God, dog health, dogs and cats, Dr. Alice Villalobos, Dr. Becker, dying pets, dying-well, end of life pet care, for the love of a pet, GOD and DOG, Heaven, JOMP, Just One More Pet, Love, pawspice, pet books, Pet Heaven, pet hospice, Pet Wills, Rainbow Bridge | 1 Comment
- Recent research suggests that dogs that are overweight at middle age may not live as long as dogs of normal weight.
- A study of approximately 5,500 dogs from 10 different breeds showed that those who are overweight at middle age can have their lives cut short by up to 10 months. This is especially prevalent in certain breeds, including Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles and Shih Tzus.
- Overweight dogs can also suffer from a long list of costly obesity-related conditions that can compromise their mobility and quality of life.
- Orthopedic problems are occurring in ever-younger pets, and with greater severity, due to obesity. Dogs that are nearly immobile from a combination of weight and joint or bone problems are becoming commonplace.
- Helping your dog achieve and maintain a healthy weight involves a combination of feeding species-appropriate nutrition in portion-controlled meals, and insuring your pet is getting plenty of regular exercise.
By Dr. Becker
If your dog is overweight or obese, you now have another huge incentive to help him slim down. According to recent research conducted by scientists from the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition in collaboration with Banfield Pet Hospital, being overweight shortens a dog’s lifespan.
Information was collected from veterinarians on approximately 5,500 pet dogs across 10 popular breeds throughout the U.S., using body condition scores for neutered male and spayed female dogs between 6.5 and 8.5 years of age.
The study results show that dogs that are overweight at middle age may not be around as long as those at a healthy weight. The research suggests that being too heavy can shave up to 10 months off a dog’s life, and this is particularly apparent in five breeds: the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, American Cocker Spaniel, Beagle and the Shih Tzu.
Overweight Dogs Also Acquire Devastating Obesity-Related Diseases
One thing the Waltham Centre study does not address is the quality of life of overweight and obese pets, many of which suffer from mobility problems and other obesity-related conditions for the final months of their lives.
Because so many pets are overweight these days, it’s common for veterinarians to see animals suffering from health conditions secondary to their obesity, including arthritis, hip dysplasia, diabetes, hypertension, respiratory problems, and kidney disease.
According to Petplan USA, in 2011, insurance claims for pets with diabetes increased over 250 percent from the prior year. Claims for heart disease rose over 30 percent, and for arthritic pets, nearly 350 percent. Orthopedic conditions are occurring in younger and younger pets, and with greater severity, because so many animals are overweight. Dogs that are nearly immobile from a combination of weight and joint or bone problems are becoming commonplace. Otherwise alert, healthy dogs are being euthanized because they simply can’t get around anymore, which destroys their quality of life.
How to Help a Heavy Dog Reach and Maintain His Ideal Weight
Excess weight on the relatively small sized body of a dog has serious and more immediate consequences than added weight on a human body. Couple that with the already short average lifespan of canines, and it’s easy to see how quickly and completely a dog’s life can be devastated by obesity.
If your dog is too heavy, isn’t it time to get him safely down to a healthy weight, so you can have him around as long as possible, and with a good quality of life?
My top three recommendations for helping an overweight pet lose weight:
- Feed a balanced, species-appropriate diet. Regardless of his weight, your dog still needs the right nutrition for his species, which means food that is high in animal protein and moisture, with low or no grain content.
- Practice portion control — usually a morning and evening meal, carefully measured. A high protein, low carb diet with the right amount of calories for weight loss, controlled through the portions you feed, is what will take the weight off your dog. And don’t forget to factor in any calories from treats.
- Regularly exercise your pet. Daily exercise, including at least 20 minutes of consistent aerobic activity, will help your pet burn fat and increase muscle tone.
For more information: "How to Help Your Chunky Dog Release Excess Pounds."
November 27, 2013 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal and Pet Photos, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Holidays With Pets, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | American Cocker Spaniel, Avoid the No-No Foods for Pets, Beagle, Cats, dogs, Dr. Becker, Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet, Golden Retriever, guinea pigs, Happy Thanksgivng, Holiday Pet Hazards, JOMP, Labrador Retriever, organ recipe for pets, Pet Holiday Hazards, pet safety, pets and holidays, potbellied pigs, roasted organ recipe for pets, safe people food for pets, salmonella bacteria, sharing people food with pets, sharing Thanksgiving With Pets, Shih Tzu, toxins for pets | 1 Comment
- The pet food industry in the U.S. is relatively young, which is surprising when you consider the vast and confusing array of pet food offerings available on the market. Prepared pet food has only been around for about 60 years, and has experienced most of its growth spurt in just the last 30 years.
- World War II introduced Americans to two things that have shown great staying power – dry pet food and processed human food, which would also ultimately have a tremendous impact on the pet food industry.
- After WWII, the U.S. enjoyed a period of tremendous growth and expansion in every direction. During those boom years, in response to the tremendous increase in consumer appetites, the human food industry created vast quantities of waste from slaughterhouses, grain mills, and processing plants. Pet food manufacturers – still in their infancy — immediately understood the unlimited opportunity of human food waste to their industry. By 1960, pet food companies had figured out how to mass-produce dry pet food to meet growing consumer demand for pet “convenience” foods.
- There’s a problem, however. Carnivorous dogs and cats have not evolved to digest and assimilate the primary ingredients in the vast majority of commercially prepared pet foods. As a result, for over a half-century we’ve created dozens of generations of animals that suffer from degenerative diseases linked to nutritional deficiencies.
- To be optimally healthy, dogs and cats need unadulterated, fresh, moisture-rich whole foods. They don’t need grains, fillers, artificial preservatives, colors, additives, chemicals, or byproducts. Although animals can eat some processed foods, they aren’t designed to consume a lifetime of dry or canned diets.
By Dr. Becker
Commercially prepared pet food in the U.S. has a relatively short (less than 100 years), but interesting history. Believe it or not, the only food made exclusively for pets prior to the early 1920s were dog biscuits!
During the 1920s and ‘30s, the pet food market began to expand a bit. Americans with enough money to purchase their pet’s food could find dehydrated, pelleted and canned formulas made from meat and grain mill scraps. But most pets were still fed primarily raw meat and table scraps, plus whatever food they hunted for themselves.
The Great Depression of the 1930s and early ‘40s had a significant impact on the growth of the commercial pet food market, however, lack of industry regulation invited anyone who wanted to make a buck to produce a can or bag of pet food. During that period, canned pet food accounted for over 90 percent of the market.
During World War II (1939 to 1945), not only was metal rationed, but pet food was categorized as “non-essential” by the U.S. government. The combination spelled death for the canned pet food industry. In addition, food rationing led to fewer table scraps. Pet owners who could afford to bought dry pet food or dog biscuits – the only commercially available products at the time.
Byproducts of WWII: Dry Pet Food and Processed Human Food
Unfortunately, the American pet owner’s love of dry pet food has endured well past the end of World War II. The war also sparked the processed food revolution in the U.S. Spam and similar products were developed in the 1930s to feed the troops abroad and to help with food rationing restrictions at home. All the factors that made processed food attractive to humans ultimately had a significant impact on the pet food industry as well.
The period after the end of WWII was a time of enormous economic growth and expansion in the U.S. Jobs were plentiful and more Americans were able to buy their own homes. As more families moved out of cities to suburbia, giant supermarkets replaced small grocery stores. Consumer demand for processed foods, for fast food – for food in general – kept pace with increases in educational and employment opportunities, individual wealth, and ever-expanding lifestyle options.
In responding to the tremendous increase in U.S. consumer appetites, the human food industry created vast quantities of agricultural scraps from slaughterhouses, grain mills, and processing plants. Pet food manufacturers immediately understood the unlimited opportunity of human food waste to their industry.
By 1960, Pet Food Companies Were Able to Mass-Market Kibble
It’s absolutely true — our pet population provides a place for recycling waste from the human food industry. Grains that fail inspection, uninspected pieces and parts of waste from the seafood industry, leftover restaurant grease, deceased livestock, and even roadkill is collected and disposed of through rendering — a process that converts all sorts of human food industry waste into raw materials for the pet food industry.
In the late 1950s, a U.S. pet food company developed a way to create kibble from boiling cauldrons of meat, fat and grain scraps – it’s called extrusion. The raw materials are purchased by pet food manufacturers who then blend the rendered fat and meat with starch fillers. They add bulk vitamin and mineral supplements, and then they extrude the mix at high temperatures, creating all sorts of toxic reactions including advanced glycation end products and heterocyclic amines. This is what passes for pet food and it’s sold to consumers at a tremendous profit.
This “advancement” in manufacturing allowed pet food companies to capitalize on the popularity of kibble. Now, they were able to mass-market the type of pet food most popular with U.S. pet owners due to its convenience and low cost.
Today, there are hundreds of kibbles, canned and semi-most dog and cat foods to choose from. This is remarkable, given that not quite 60 years ago, commercial pet food was almost unheard of.
Have We Chosen Convenience Over the Health of Our Pets?
No one really argues with the fact that in order for optimal health to occur, animals – including humans — must consume the foods they were designed to eat, and preferably whole, fresh and unadulterated. This is known as species-appropriate nutrition. For example, vegetarian animals must eat vegetation for optimal health. Carnivores must eat fresh whole prey for optimal health.
Carnivorous pets have not evolved to digest and assimilate foods like corn, wheat, rice or potatoes – yet these are the very foods the vast majority of pet food manufacturers use as primary ingredients in their formulas. Fortunately, dogs and cats are extremely resilient creatures. Not only do they not die immediately upon eating biologically inappropriate foods, but it often takes years before the significant physical degeneration that occurs from a lifetime of eating the wrong foods becomes noticeable.
One of the reasons we’re able to deceive ourselves into believing convenience pet foods are good for dogs and cats is because the changes to a pet’s health and vitality brought on by a dead, processed diet are usually not immediate or acute.
For over a half-century, our pets have been fed inappropriate diets that have kept them alive, but not thriving. In fact, we’ve created dozens of generations of animals that suffer from degenerative diseases linked to nutritional deficiencies.
Optimal Nutrition for Your Dog or Cat
Dogs and cats need quality protein, fats, and a small amount of vegetables and fruits, which provide antioxidants and fiber to animals that no longer hunt whole prey.
Natural sources of trace minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids must be added, since the soils in which foods are grown are depleted of many of the nutrients pets need. Also, food storage, whether it’s in a freezer or a pantry, decreases critical essential fatty acid levels in foods.
Pets need unadulterated, fresh, whole foods that are moisture dense. They don’t need grains, fillers, artificial preservatives, colors, additives, chemicals, byproducts, or processed foods. Although animals can eat some processed foods, they aren’t designed to consume a lifetime of dry or canned diets.
If you would like to learn more about the importance of fresh, whole, unprocessed diets for dogs and cats, I recommend you watch or read my three-part series on raw food diets for pets:
Part 1 — The Feeding Mistake Linked to the Cause of Most Disease-Are You Making It?
Part 2 — The Biggest Myths About Raw Food (And Why They’re Mostly Nonsense)
Part 3 – Common Feeding Mistakes That Can Harm Your Pet
You can also find a vast amount of additional information here at Mercola Healthy Pets on how to choose the best foods for your pet, and what foods to avoid.
Real meat is the best food for your dog….nothing else even comes close.
The best food for your dog is . . .
Real food. Fresh food. Real chicken, turkey, beef, bison, venison, fish. Fresh vegetables. Yogurt, eggs, cottage cheese.
No, this is not "people food." Calling real food "people food" makes it sound as though people are the only living creatures entitled to eat real food. That’s not true.
ALL living creatures deserve real, fresh food.
"You can boost your pet’s health profoundly by making one simple decision. All you have to do is change his diet from commercial-brand fare to something you may never have imagined giving him – real food. The fresh food you buy at the market for yourself is the food you should give your pet, too."
Generations of dogs lived to ripe old ages on fresh foods…before the pet food corporations came along and changed (ruined) everything.
Dog food corporations. "Just say no."
Dogs have been domesticated for about 15,000 years (that’s amazing, isn’t it?) and up until the 1930s, they were NEVER fed "kibble" or "canned" brands from a store. Dogs were fed real meat and vegetables, and a little homemade bread. On this diet they thrived, frequently living into their late teens.
Dogs didn’t eat kibble until the 1930s when the grain and meat industries needed a market for their rejects.
That all changed in the 1930s, when cereal and grain manufacturers were looking for something profitable to do with their rejected cereals and grain – their wheat and corn that failed USDA inspection because of mold, rancidity, and other contaminants.
These companies discovered that hey, the meat industry faced the same dilemma – meat that failed USDA inspection because it had spoiled or because the livestock was diseased.
The ingenious idea of mixing the rejects together and calling it "dog food" was born.
Marketing firms spent an enormous amount of money planting this lamentable idea in the public’s mind, and today commercial diets are promoted by multi-billion dollar pet food corporations and the veterinary industry, both of whom have a huge financial stake in getting you to feed these products.
But processed kibble and canned products were not then – nor are they now – "dog food."
Real dog food was, is, and always will be real food. That’s what your dog should be eating.
"The whole concept of Insta-Meal for humans is repulsive. Most people would soon be climbing the walls in frustration, desperate for a salad or some fruit – anything whole and fresh, or just different. Perhaps the thought of eating kibbles for the rest of your own life helps make the point that pets forced to do so are being shortchanged. All of us – humans and animals – should have fresh, wholesome, unprocessed food in our daily diet.
The awful ingredients in commercial "dog food"
Virtually all dog food brands are heavily based on fibrous grains and cereals. But dogs do not have the long, winding digestive tract required to digest fibrous grains and cereals. Dogs have a short straight digestive tract designed to digest meat.
Many dogs who eat corn, soybeans, or wheat develop health problems.Excessive shedding or dandruff. Loose stools. Gassiness and flatulence. Itchy skin, where your dog licks his feet or rubs his face against the carpet, trying to ease the itch. You might never think to associate these problems with the grain in your dog’s diet, but that is often the case.
To make matters worse, GOOD grain is reserved for the human market. What goes into the pet food bin is deemed unfit for human consumption because of mold, rancidity, or contaminants – yuck!
Unless a dog food brand says its meat passed USDA inspection…it didn’t.
Contrary to what the dog food companies show you on TV commercials, your dog doesn’t get sirloin from a healthy cow who spent its life cropping grass, nor does he get white chicken breast from a hen who spent its life pecking happily around the barnyard.
No, your dog gets the meat that didn’t make the cut for the human market – 4D meat from livestock that was Diseased,Disabled, Dying, or already Dead when it arrived at the slaughterhouse. It won’t pass USDA inspection, so into the pet food bin it goes….
….along with the growth hormones that were fed to the livestock to make them grow faster…and with the antibiotics fed to the livestock to prevent massive outbreaks of disease in their crowded living conditions. These hormones and antibiotics trickle through to your dog.
THE GREASY FAT
You know that pungent smell that wafts up from a freshly opened bag of kibble? That’s greasy fat sprayed onto the hard little pebbles to tempt your dog to eat it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be recognizable to him as food. So dogs gobble up their kibble for the same reason kids gobble up french fries. But we don’t let our kids eat only french fries just because they love the smell or taste, do we?
Bags of kibble can sit on a shelf for so long because of the chemical preservatives.
Preservatives make the bags and cans last longer That’s convenient for the dog food company, which can leave it sitting in their warehouse for a long time. Convenient for the retailer who can leave it sitting on his shelf for a long time. Convenient for the owner who can leave it in the pantry for a long time, then pour it into his dog’s bowl and leave it sitting there all day if necessary.
But what is this stuff that keeps ingredients from spoiling?
The most common dog food preservatives are BHA and BHT (both of which are associated with liver and kidney dysfunction, and bladder and stomach cancer) and ethoxyquin, which is manufactured by that giant chemical corporation Monsanto as a rubber preservative. The Department of Agriculture lists it as a pesticide. OSHA lists it as a hazardous chemical. The containers are marked POISON.
All 3 chemicals are banned in Europe, but because their manufacturers have so much legislative clout here in the U.S., they’re still tolerated here. Sad, but true.
"Good news!" you say. "None of those preservatives are in MY dog food brand." Well, not so fast. Even when it’s not listed, it can be in there, anyway. A legal loophole, you see, allows dog food companies to only list what they themselves put into the bag. If they buy some of their ingredients from a supplier who has already added the chemical, the dog food company doesn’t have to disclose that on the bag.
Isn’t that nice?
THE UNRECOGNIZABLE INGREDIENTS
Brewer’s rice? Wheat bran? Beet pulp? Corn gluten? Do you know what any of that stuff is? Can you see yourself picking up a bag of corn gluten or a carton of beet pulp for your dog’s supper?
What about animal digest? This ingredient is officially described as "material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue." Doesn’t that sound tasty? It’s actually a boiled concoction from the rendering plant, and the "animal tissue" can include anything from cattle to rats to roadkill to dogs and cats euthanized at the animal shelter. Yes, the FDA has found sodium pentobarbital – the chemical used to euthanize animals – in some brands of dog food.
Australian veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst says:
"If you look at the ingredient list on a can or a bag of pet food – with understanding – you will realise that what is being listed is a heap of rubbish. Definitely not the wholesome nutritious food you would want to feed to a valued member of your family!"
Artificial diets are causing health problems in dogs.
How commercial dog food affects your dog’s health
Every day, unhappy dogs parade through veterinary offices. They suffer from:
- hot spots
- excessive shedding
- loose stools
What are these dogs eating? Virtually every one of them is eating an artificial diet.
"Since I graduated from veterinary school in 1965, I’ve noticed a general deterioration in pet health. We now see very young animals with diseases that we used to see only in older animals. Without the perspective of several decades, vets just coming out of veterinary school think these degenerative conditions in younger animals are "normal." They do not realize what has happened over the passage of time.
I believe, along with poor quality nutrients, the chemical additives in pet food play a major part in that decline. Pet foods contain slaughterhouse wastes, toxic products from spoiled foodstuffs, non-nutritive fillers, heavy-metal contaminants, pesticides, herbicides, drug residues, sugar, and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives."
Dr. Martin Goldstein D.V.M. sums it up:
"When I tell an owner that a change of diet can affect her pet’s health in a matter of days, the first reaction is usually delight, sometimes even exhilaration."
Dr. Richard Pitcairn D.V.M. Packaged and canned dog food like packaged and jarred baby food and insta-meals or artificial diets for people are not only not better but are generally bad for those who eat them. Insta-meals, commercial baby food and commercial pet food are industries dreamed up for profits by entrepreneurs that only get worse as the companies and their focus on profits gets bigger.
Without a doubt pets who eat real healthy food live longer and healthier lives… and it saves on the vet bills!
And cooking for your pets does not have to be a chore. They can eat many of the same things you eat and there are some great recipes for meats, stews, etc that you can fix for both you and your pet!
h/t to my great friend and vet Dr. Susan for sending this article~
November 14, 2013 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal Related Education, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, pet products, Pets, responsible pet ownership | commercial dog food, dogs and cats, Dr. Becker, home-cooking, kibble, Pet Food, Pets | 3 Comments
- In the second half of a two-part interview, Dr. Becker talks with Dr. Ronald Schultz of the Rabies Challenge Fund about a variety of vaccine-related topics, including the mysterious rattlesnake vaccine, how it actually works, and for what snake in particular.
- Dr. Becker and Dr. Schultz also discuss the Lyme disease vaccine, and under what circumstances it can prove beneficial, as well as the challenges of diagnosing leptospirosis and improvements in that vaccine in recent years.
- Dr. Schultz also offers an excellent explanation of the various bordetella vaccines, what dogs really need them and how often, as well as what form of the vaccine he prefers. He and Dr. Becker also discuss the pros and cons of the canine influenza vaccine.
- Dr. Becker and Dr. Schultz agree that veterinarians should discuss vaccines with pet owners before they vaccinate. And Dr. Schultz offers his view on which pets are most likely to develop an adverse reaction to vaccines.
- Lastly, Dr. Becker and Dr. Schultz discuss the important work the Rabies Challenge Fund is doing to determine the duration of immunity conveyed by rabies vaccines. The goal is to extend the length of time between rabies vaccines to five years, then, if possible to seven years. The project is in year six of a seven-year study and depends on grassroots funding to conduct the necessary clinical trials. This week only, Mercola Healthy Pets will match every $1 donated by readers with a $2 donation, up to $30,000, to help the Rabies Challenge Fund complete its invaluable work toward reducing the number of vaccines our pets must receive during their lifetime.
By Dr. Becker
I’m back with Dr. Ron Schultz for the second half of our vaccine discussion. Dr. Schultz heads up the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. He’s joining me today on behalf of an important project he’s been working on for several years – the Rabies Challenge Fund. The purpose of the fund is to determine the duration of immunity conveyed by rabies vaccines, with the goal of extending the required interval for rabies boosters to five and then to seven years.
If you missed the first part of our discussion on Wednesday, I encourage you to watch that video as well. Dr. Schultz talks about core and non-core vaccines, and the benefits of the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccine and why he believes every kitten should receive it (I must politely disagree on this topic). We also discuss vaccines Dr. Schultz does not recommend, why the whole topic of titering is so confusing, and whether or not he believes cats should be titer tested.
Continuing our discussion of vaccines today, the first thing I asked Dr. Schultz to talk about – because I don’t know much about it myself and get many questions about it – is the rattlesnake vaccine.
How Does the Rattlesnake Vaccine Work, and Is It Effective?
Dr. Schultz explained that the rattlesnake vaccine is actually an aid to prevent death in the event an animal is bitten by a specific type of rattlesnake. He says it does have value in that it can keep an animal bitten by a Western diamondback rattlesnake alive. But he cautions that when the vaccine is used, it’s important for pet owners to know their dog must still be treated for snake bite for two reasons. One, the snake may not have been a Western diamondback rattlesnake, in which case the vaccine offers no protection. Two, the vaccine in most cases will not prevent the venom from causing disease. What the vaccine does is buy time to get the animal treated, and it seems to work well in that regard.
I asked Dr. Schultz if he has concerns about the adjuvant used in the rattlesnake vaccine causing a reaction. He replied that unfortunately, nobody knows very much about the vaccine and in his opinion, it hasn’t been adequately tested. Most of the tests were done with rabbits, mice and other species, but not dogs. It should be tested in dogs. There’s just not a lot of research on this particular vaccine.
Dr. Schultz’s View on Lyme Disease Vaccines
Next I asked Dr. Schultz to discuss his thoughts on Lyme disease vaccines. He explained that there are several of them. There are whole killed organism vaccines of Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. And there’s a recombinant vaccine that contains just the important outer surface protein A component.
Dr. Schultz’s recommendation regarding Lyme vaccines depends on where the animal lives. For example, in the Madison area of Wisconsin, there’s currently about a four percent infection rate. But if you travel just 70 miles to La Crosse, there’s about a 70 percent infection rate. And in parts of Long Island, New York, there is a 90 percent infection rate.
So depending on where you live or plan to visit, your dog may have a very high risk of being infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. In high risk cases, Dr. Schultz recommends not only a tick preventive, but also the vaccine. Most of the Lyme disease vaccines are around 60 to 75 percent effective at preventing the organism from causing disease.
I asked Dr. Schultz if he has concerns about reactions from Lyme disease vaccines, and he replied that yes, there are some potential concerns. The Lyme vaccines are bacterial vaccines, and bacterial vaccines always carry a greater risk of adverse reactions, especially reactions of an immediate nature. With both leptospirosis bacterin vaccines and Lyme bacterin vaccines, the nature of the bacteria can cause adverse reactions in some animals. According to Dr. Schultz, these vaccines have the ability to stimulate the IgE antibody in animals, which is responsible for immediate or type 1 hypersensitivity reactions. So bacterins are always more likely to cause an adverse reaction than a live viral vaccine, for example.
If he were to recommend a Lyme vaccine, Dr. Schultz likes the outer surface protein A product better than the whole killed product because the former takes some of the potentially reactogenic antigens out of the formula. But even with that, the vaccine can still cause adverse reactions in some animals.
What About Leptospirosis? Is It a Bigger Threat Today Than in Years Past?
Leptospirosis (and its vaccines) is another confusing subject. There are veterinarians in the Chicago area who are promoting lepto as some kind of new, trendy infectious disease. But lepto has been around forever. Dr. Schultz agrees – there’s nothing new about leptospirosis. And he believes it’s probably no more common today than it was 40 or 50 years ago, despite the hype, which is driven in part by the really poor diagnostics used to detect the disease.
Fortunately, according to Dr. Schultz, there are better detection techniques on the horizon. The current gold standard, he says, “… is about as poor a test as you’ll ever find.” It gives false readings – false positives. Dr. Schultz says he’s seen a high number of supposed lepto cases that are NOT lepto cases thanks to poor diagnostics. Poor diagnostics have added to the general confusion surrounding lepto, and are partly why veterinarians are recommending mass vaccination against the disease.
Dr. Schultz restated that in his view, lepto is no more prevalent today than it was 40 years ago. However, the vaccine has improved tremendously in recent years, because it now contains the 4 serovars that cause lepto in the U.S. In the past, all lepto vaccines contained only 2 serovars. With the old 2-serovar vaccines, Dr. Schultz says there were as many vaccinated dogs with lepto as there were non-vaccinated dogs.
He believes today, the lepto vaccine is probably 60 to 80 percent effective in preventing disease. I asked him if the animal can still transmit or shed the bacteria. He replied there is that potential, but even the shedding is reduced with the 4-serovar vaccine.
Of course, despite the improved effectiveness of the lepto vaccine, there are still concerns about adverse reactions with the first dose, or subsequent revaccinations. Dr. Schultz explains this is another of the bacterins that is more likely to cause an adverse reaction simply as a result of the nature of the organism.
Adverse Reactions to Vaccines Can be Immediate, or They Can Develop Weeks, Months or Even Years Post-Vaccination
So we’ve established that the majority of adverse events occur with bacterin-type vaccines. These vaccines can cause all types of hypersensitivity reactions in some animals. Type 1 adverse reactions typically occur immediately after vaccination and are obviously directly linked to the vaccine.
But as Dr. Schultz goes on to explain, when we have a reaction like the development of autoimmune hemolytic anemia or another autoimmune disease in a genetically predisposed animal, it usually occurs weeks, months or even years after vaccination. Often the offending vaccine in those cases is a live viral vaccine, and it isn’t blamed for causing the disease because there’s a span of time between vaccination and development of the autoimmune disorder.
Many veterinarians will say, in response to the suggestion that a vaccine caused an autoimmune disorder, something like, “What do you mean? There’s no correlation. It was last year when the dog received that vaccine.” And even worse, both Dr. Schultz and I have seen veterinarians tell pet owners their animal’s illness couldn’t be a vaccine reaction even when the two events happen within days of each other.
Dr. Schultz’s Bordetella Vaccine Recommendation
Next I asked Dr. Schultz to talk to us about bordetella vaccines. He explained that the vaccine is available now in a variety of forms. There’s an oral vaccine, which is a live, attenuated bordetella organism. There’s the intranasal form, which is also the live organism. And there’s the injectable form, which is a killed product. Dr. Schultz says he has been able to clearly demonstrate that the live product is the most effective, whether oral or intranasal.
But one of the problems with bordetella is that it is always accompanied by other agents in causing canine infectious respiratory disease complex, otherwise known as kennel cough. There are many infectious agents involved, but the most important one from a bacterial standpoint is bordetella. From a viral standpoint, an impressive number of infectious agents can play a role.
I personally can’t see a reason to use injectable bordetella when there are other safer, non-adjuvanted and attenuated vaccines available. Dr. Schultz points out that one of the reasons the injectable is popular is that it can be used with dogs that won’t cooperate with intranasal or oral administration of the vaccine. He does a lot of work with shelters, and there are many difficult dogs in that population that must receive the vaccine by injection. Some dogs can be muzzled and given the oral vaccine, but often it’s too dangerous for shelter staff to even try to muzzle certain dogs.
In my opinion, the bordetella vaccine should only be given when a dog must be boarded. If you don’t board your dog, or if you don’t plan to have your dog in contact with other dogs (such as at shows and training classes), then my recommendation is to opt out.
However, some kennels require dogs to receive a twice-yearly schedule of bordetella revaccinations. Dr. Schultz believes if you’re taking your pet to a boarding facility that requires bordetella vaccines every six months, you should change to another facility, because the one you’re using has a ventilation or hygiene problem and not an infectious disease problem. “Don’t allow anyone to tell you that you need to get bordetella vaccine every six months. If they do, don’t go there anymore,” says Dr. Schultz.
The Canine Influenza Vaccine – Is It Really Necessary?
I also asked Dr. Schultz about the canine influenza vaccine, which is another vaccine commonly required at boarding facilities and similar businesses. He answered that he’s not sure the vaccine should be required, because canine influenza isn’t a casually transmitted virus. It’s not something the average well cared-for dog will pick up at the local dog park.
Dr. Schultz does caution, however, that if the canine influenza vaccine is to be given, it can’t be administered at the last minute. Dogs that have never received the vaccine need at least three weeks to develop immunity after being vaccinated. And two doses must be given, with a minimum of two weeks separating them. If a dog is receiving annual boosters of the vaccine, it won’t take three weeks for immunity to develop after revaccination.
Dr. Schultz explains that bordetella (as well as other bacterial diseases such as streptococcal infections) and canine influenza together can create severe disease.
Dr. Schultz mentioned that many kennels do require the canine influenza vaccine, so I asked him if that is out of concern about spreading disease, or concern about covering their bases from a liability standpoint. Dr. Schultz thinks much of it comes from a concern that if there were to be an outbreak of canine influenza, the facilities would be found at fault because they didn’t require the vaccine. Fortunately, to date there have only been a few outbreaks of canine influenza in shelters and kennels.
I agree. I feel a lot of those requirements are simply a way to bounce liability away from the business owner. And it’s up to pet owners to determine the true motivation behind the requirement if they choose to board or have their dog groomed at a facility that demands certain vaccines. And as Dr. Schultz points out, if any of the vaccines required by these businesses cause an adverse reaction in a pet, the costs (both financial and emotional) associated with the adverse event are the owner’s responsibility even though the vaccines were required by a third party.
Are Pet Owners Informed About the Potential for Adverse Vaccine Reactions?
As it stands right now, veterinarians must obtain informed consent from a pet owner when we elect not to vaccinate an animal. I asked Dr. Schultz if he believes we should also obtain informed consent TO vaccinate an animal. He replied that he definitely agrees we should. In my opinion, many in the traditional veterinary community are casual vaccinators. They aren’t informing their clients of all the potential ramifications of administering vaccines.
Dr. Schultz agrees that pet owners need to be aware, even though the number of adverse reactions is relatively small. And something he wants to re-emphasize – something that people don’t realize or think about – is that adverse reactions are genetically controlled. When Dr. Schultz talks to breeders, he tells them that if they see adverse vaccine reactions in puppies from a specific combination of mother and father dogs, they should not mate those two dogs again, because the incidence of adverse reactions will increase with each litter and potentially with litters of those litters, and so on. By continuing to mate those two dogs to each other, they will perpetuate the genetic predisposition to adverse vaccine reactions.
Dr. Schultz says, as an example, we might see allergic neuritis or paralysis develop in about 1 in 10,000 vaccinates, yet in a litter of five puppies, three of the five may develop the condition. One of them dies, and two are paralyzed. So the incidence of adverse reactions is not rare in that litter of five, because genetics plays a key role in causing the vaccine adverse reaction.
What Pets Are Most Likely to Have an Adverse Reaction to Vaccines?
There are genetic predispositions among breeds of dogs. As a Boston Terrier owner, I have concerns not just about immediate adverse reactions, but about mast cell tumors, for example. No one is studying the correlation, but I personally believe there’s a strong correlation between vaccinations and mast cell tumors.
Dr. Schultz agrees and thinks that in dogs, we should look at mast cell tumors, histiocytomas and other similar responses at vaccine injection sites. We are aware of feline injection-site sarcomas, but really, any vaccine in a dog or cat that stimulates a proliferative response in cells should be looked at. Particular individuals with a genetic predisposition turn those cells neoplastic, and the animal doesn’t have the suppressor factors necessary to control the disease (tumor) at the cellular level. It’s going to turn into a tumor.
Recognition among veterinarians has been slow in coming, but it’s coming. As Dr. Schultz points out, until fairly recently the veterinary community never considered that a vaccine could cause a lethal tumor in a young, healthy animal. He says it was a great awakening in the mid-1980s for the veterinary profession to realize the potential for adverse events following vaccination, specifically at the time, injection-site sarcomas in cats. But Dr. Schultz believes it’s important to keep in mind that these events are rare, and many veterinarians have never seen one. Other practices see six or eight a year. The frequency isn’t based on the number of cats coming into a particular practice. Which brings us back to the matter of genetic predisposition to adverse events from vaccines.
Other factors that can play a role include an animal’s nutritional status, environmental status, the type of vaccine, the stress the animal feels – all those things and more play into an animal’s immunologic response.
In terms of genetics, one example Dr. Schultz points out is the small breed dog. He says it’s not every small breed, but there are small breeds out there that are genetically predisposed to react to many vaccines. Dr. Schultz says this is a critically important point when it comes to making decisions about giving vaccinations.
If you have a small breed dog that has proven to be hypersensitive to vaccines – or is related to other hypersensitive dogs — and that dog spends most of his time in the house on someone’s lap, what are the chances he’ll be exposed to leptospirosis? The chances are slim to none, so why would you even think about injecting that dog with a lepto vaccine? Dr. Schultz says vaccine manufacturers don’t want those animals vaccinated due to the risk of adverse reactions.
In terms of recognizing the potential dangers of certain vaccines for certain pets, breed-specific organizations seem to, and of course individual pet owners who’ve lived through horrific experiences do as well. But there are still a large number of veterinarians who seem unwilling to put the puzzle pieces together to protect potentially vulnerable patients.
Dr. Schultz replied that he’s still shocked by the number of practices that are still giving core vaccines annually. As he puts it, “If ever we could get away from this addiction to vaccination just for the sake of vaccination …”.
Dr. Schultz and the Rabies Challenge Fund
The last topic I want to discuss with Dr. Schultz today is one that is close to my heart, the Rabies Challenge Fund. I asked Dr. Schultz to describe the project and its purpose for people who aren’t familiar with it.
He responded that what he and his colleagues Dr. Jean Dodds and Kris Christine have been doing for over five years now is trying to answer the question, can be we get protection from rabies vaccines, and how long can that protection last? Right now there are rabies vaccines that carry either a 1-year or 3-year license. Many of those vaccines are actually the same product – they were just licensed differently. Dr. Schultz is looking beyond the 3-year license by conducting very difficult, very expensive studies to determine how long immunity from a rabies vaccine truly lasts.
This is the way a rabies vaccine is licensed: The USDA requires that a vaccinated group of animals be challenged with the rabies virus at three or five or seven years after the vaccine is given. There must also be a control group of dogs that are unvaccinated. When challenged, a certain percentage of that group must develop rabies to insure the challenge is viable. Of the vaccinated group, 88 percent or more must be protected in order for the USDA to license the vaccine for the number of years protection is provided.
At this time, the Rabies Challenge Fund is at five years with one of the vaccines they are testing, and at three years with the other. They are currently trying to determine whether or not the vaccines will be effective at five years. If those tests show that there should still be protection at five years post-vaccination, the next step will be to do the challenge itself.
Dr. Schultz has two years left on one of the vaccine products and four years left on the other product to determine length of immunity. The work he and his colleagues are doing with the rabies challenge is funded by dog owners. Dr. Schultz says no one is really interested in the work other than caring dog owners, which also includes a number of breed-specific clubs and organizations – basically people who want to give their dogs as few vaccines as necessary – law-abiding citizens who want their pets protected from disease, but don’t want to risk their pet’s health with unnecessary vaccinations.
How You Can Help
The Rabies Challenge Fund study is the first of its kind, and it takes a lot of money to do the work. It’s seven years of research, data collection, and publishing the results. That’s why Mercola Healthy Pets is partnering with the Rabies Challenge Fund to help raise the remainder of the money needed to not only complete the study, but to insure the research is published in a manner that will benefit the most pets.
And of course research is still ongoing. They are in year six, and have year seven still to go. The project depends on grassroots gifts for funding the costs of conducting the requisite vaccine trials. Contributions to date have come mostly from kennel clubs and private individuals. None of the money collected by the Rabies Challenge Fund goes to Dr. Schultz, Dr. Dodds, Kris Christine, or others working on their behalf. Salaries and other overhead costs are not involved, with the exception of expenses for care and testing of the study animals.
I want to extend my thanks to Dr. Schultz for talking with us today and for his work with the Rabies Challenge Fund. Extending the length of time between rabies and other vaccinations, thereby reducing the total number of vaccines animals receive during their lifetime, will be a huge benefit to the health and well being of pets.
Mercola Healthy Pets is proud to partner with the Rabies Challenge Fund to raise money to help improve the lives of animals. This week, for every $1 donated to the Rabies Challenge Fund by a Mercola Healthy Pets reader, we will donate $2, up to $30,000. I hope you’ll join us in helping RabiesChallengeFund.org fund the remaining research needed to complete their seven-year study.
The dangers of vaccines are surfacing for children, people in general, and now pets: New Organization VaxTruth Fights Vaccine Damages
November 11, 2013 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | Bordetella, Dr. Becker, Leptospirosis, Lyme disease, Pet Health, pet vaccines, Pets, rabies, Vaccines, VaxTruth | 2 Comments
- Most veterinarians at one time or another get questions from clients about why their dog’s urine burns the grass … and what they can do about it.
- There are three reasons a dog’s urine burns grass: an alkaline pH, concentrated (vs. dilute) urine, and nitrogen load. The most important factor of the three is urine pH.
- Dogs are carnivores, and as such, their urine pH should be on the acidic side – ideally from 6 to 6.5, but no more than 7. A urine pH over 7 will not only burn your grass, it can predispose your pet to struvite crystals and other urinary tract disorders.
- A dog’s urine pH can often be maintained in the healthy range by feeding a species-appropriate diet — low-carb, grain-free, potato-free, and preferably fresh or at least canned food for the increased moisture content.
- If improving your dog’s urine pH doesn’t fully resolve the problem of your burned lawn, alternatives are to water down the spots where he urinates, or cover the area with about an inch of compost to help rebalance the soil pH.
By Dr. Becker
A question veterinarians get asked all the time by pet owners is, “Why does my dog’s urine seem to kill my grass?” And “Is there anything I can do about it?” Actually, there is. Your pet’s urine pH has a lot to do with whether your grass stays green.
Since winter is on the way and in many parts of the U.S. people won’t be thinking about their lawns for a few months, I thought now would be a good time to offer some tips on how to naturally adjust your dog’s urine pH so he or she will be less likely to burn the grass next spring and summer.
The Three Reasons a Dog’s Urine Burns the Grass
There are three primary reasons why dog urine burns grass: alkaline urine pH, the concentration of the urine, and its nitrogen load. The most important of these factors is urine pH. The best way to find out which is the causative factor in your dog’s situation is to drop a urine sample off at your vet for a urinalysis.
Concentrated urine has more solutes (particles) than dilute urine, which can affect grass health. The reason many people believe female dogs kill more grass than males is because females typically squat and pee in one spot (depositing a whopper load of solutes), whereas males tend to urinate in smaller amounts as they wander from spot to spot.
In my experience, urine nitrogen can affect grass health, but only when the nitrogen load is very high. Normal nitrogenous waste excreted in urine should not kill the grass. But if a dog’s urine pH is in the correct range and his urinalysis shows a high nitrogen level, some pet owners have had success reducing urine nitrogen levels with products like Dog Rocks.
Your Dog’s Urine pH Should Be Between 6 and 6.5
Dogs are carnivores and should have a slightly acidic urine pH of between 6 and 6.5. (The higher the urine pH, the more alkaline it is.) Vegetarian mammals like rabbits and horses naturally have a very alkaline urine pH. Human urine is naturally slightly more alkaline (6.5-7), and many pet owners wrongly assume their dog’s body functions in the same manner as their own.
It’s important to keep your healthy dog’s urine pH below 7, because a higher pH will not only burn your lawn – it will predispose your dog to developing struvite crystals. The flip side of that coin is a urine pH below 6, which can cause dogs to develop a different type of problem — calcium oxalate stones. So for the health of both your dog and your lawn, you should strive to keep your pet’s urine pH right around 6.5, and no higher than 7.
I recommend buying pH strips from your vet or at the local drug store to check your pet’s urine pH at home so you know when it’s in or outside the desired range. In the morning prior to feeding your dog is when you should collect the urine sample. You can either hold the pH tape in the stream of urine while your dog is voiding, or you can catch a urine sample in a container and dip the tape into the sample to check the pH. This should be done immediately with a fresh sample to insure accuracy. Don’t measure urine pH throughout the day after feeding your pet.
Dietary Recommendations to Lower Your Dog’s Urine pH
When we feed carnivores a cereal-based diet, their urine becomes alkaline as a result, and alkaline urine burns grass. Meat-based diets are innately acidic, which is perfect for carnivores. Alkalizing diets are not a good idea for carnivores. Not only do they create urine that burns grass, more importantly, they very often are the cause of chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) because lack of acidity removes the antimicrobial activity in urine. Alkaline urine can also create cystitis (irritation of the lining of the bladder), crystals, and even uroliths, or stones, that require surgery.
Dry foods increase urine concentrations and also ammonia levels. Ammonia has a pH of 10 or more. A moisture-rich diet promotes a healthy specific gravity (urine concentration) that decreases the likelihood the urine will burn your lawn. In fact, a healthy dog’s urine should act as a fertilizer — everywhere she pees, the grass should be twice as dark, lush and tall as surrounding grass.
Often, a dog’s urine pH can be maintained naturally between 6 and 6.5 by feeding a species-appropriate diet. To reduce urine pH you must feed a low-carb, grain-free, potato-free, and preferably fresh or at least canned food diet for the increased moisture content.
There are products on the market to reduce urine pH that contain the acidifying amino acid DL-methionine. This is a safe addition to your dog’s diet, but a more logical approach is to simply stop feeding grains and alkalizing foods.
Other Tips for Protecting Your Lawn from Urine Scalding
If you’ve managed to get your dog’s urine pH into the 6 to 6.5 range and his vet says his urinalysis is perfect, but he’s still killing your lawn, there are a couple of other ways to deal with those burn marks.
One way is to hose down or at least pour water on the patch of grass as soon as your pet urinates. I have a client who walks his dog in the grassy common area in his condominium complex. He keeps a couple of 16 oz. bottles filled with tap water, and grabs one along with the dog leash and poop bag whenever he takes his dog out to relieve himself. When the dog urinates, my client follows behind him and splashes or pours water on the spot.
Alternatively, you can cover the area with about an inch of compost. Either method will help rebalance the soil pH and reduce urine burning.
November 11, 2013 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets | Brown-Grass, Dog-related, dogs, Dr. Becker, grass, Pets | 1 Comment
- Chuck is an 11-year-old Australian Shepherd mix who wound up in his local veterinarian’s office one day when he suddenly couldn’t stand or walk.
- Chuck’s vet suspected he’d suffered a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE), also known as a spinal cord stroke, which is caused by an obstruction in a blood vessel in the spinal cord.
- A neurologist agreed with Chuck’s veterinarian, and together they developed a treatment plan than included rehabilitation therapy. Chuck began doing range-of-motion exercises at home, received laser therapy at his local vet’s office, and came to Therapaw, Dr. Becker’s rehab clinic, for hydrotherapy sessions on an underwater treadmill.
- After his very first hydrotherapy session with Teri Baughman, a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Assistant, Chuck’s improvement was so dramatic that he was able to walk into the clinic the following week for his second session on the underwater treadmill! And we are delighted to report that Chuck has continued to make good progress week-by-week.
- Chuck’s story is a wonderful example of the importance of an early intervention and therapy plan, collaboration among the various members of a pet’s health care team, and an owner’s desire to see her dog regain good quality of life.
By Teri Baughman, Certified Canine Rehabilitation Assistant At Dr. Becker
The handsome fellow enjoying a cup of doggy yogurt in the picture to my right is Chuck, an 11-year-old Australian Shepherd mix.
Chuck’s owner brought him to his local veterinarian in June because the dog was suddenly unable to stand or walk, but didn’t seem to be in any pain. Chuck’s vet performed a neurologic exam and diagnosed him with a probable fibrocartilaginous embolism, or FCE.
Chuck Suffered a ‘Spinal Cord Stroke’
An FCE is a blockage in a blood vessel in the spinal cord. It’s often referred to as a spinal cord stroke.
The vertebral column is made up of small bones called vertebrae that are joined together by intervertebral discs. The discs function as cushions between the vertebrae and allow the spine to flex. They are round in shape, fibrous on the outside, and contain a gel-like substance on the inside called the nucleus pulposus.
One of the jobs of the vertebral column is to protect the spinal cord inside it. The spinal cord is similar to a long cable of nerves that sends messages to and from the brain and regulates the body’s reflexes. The spinal cord is fed by a system of blood vessels.
A fibrocartilaginous embolism occurs when a fragment of the nucleus pulposus inside an intervertebral disc escapes into the blood vessel of the spinal cord and causes an obstruction. This affected area of the spinal cord then dies.
Unfortunately, neurologic loss that occurs within the first 24 hours is usually permanent. The good news is the condition isn’t progressive. Any pain usually resolves within 12 to 24 hours. And with immediate treatment, primarily involving very intensive physical therapy, most dogs experience significant recovery.
Signs of a fibrocartilaginous embolism usually appear suddenly and follow a period of exercise or what otherwise seems like a mild injury or trauma. In Chuck’s case, his FCE appeared entirely out of the blue, with no precipitating event.
Chuck’s Treatment Plan
Chuck’s local vet consulted with a neurologist. Unfortunately, without an expensive MRI, a confirming diagnosis couldn’t be made. But based on the classic symptoms he was experiencing, it was agreed an FCE was the most likely cause of Chuck’s paralysis.
Chuck’s vet and the neurologist put together a treatment plan that included an oral steroid to reduce inflammation in the central nervous system, an antibiotic to address a possible acute infection affecting Chuck’s central nervous system, and physical rehabilitation.
Chuck began his rehab program with range-of-motion exercises he did at home, and laser therapy at his local veterinary clinic. Then he came to Therapaw, Dr. Becker’s rehab clinic, to have hydrotherapy sessions with me.
During his first session, I noted that Chuck’s most significant neurologic deficits were in his left front foot. He wasn’t able to flip his foot into a normal position from a knuckled position. I also fitted Chuck with one of my favorite assistance harnesses, the Help Em Up harness, at his first visit.
Chuck in the hydrotherapy tank
Chuck Makes Amazing Progress Right Away
Astonishingly, Chuck’s first session of hydrotherapy made such a dramatic difference in his mobility that he was able to walk into Therapaw for his second session! He was also able to flip his knuckled front left foot to a normal position during his second underwater treadmill session, although he couldn’t yet do it outside the water tank.
Chuck completed a total of eight underwater treadmill therapy sessions and has continued to make impressive progress in his strength, reflexes and endurance with each visit. Chuck is about 80 percent recovered from the effects of the fibrocartilaginous embolism and continues to improve each week.
Chuck’s story demonstrates the tremendous benefit of an early intervention and therapy plan, a collective veterinary effort, and an owner’s desire to do everything possible to improve her dog’s quality of life.
Not only is Chuck still with his family, he’s improving physically and feeling better week-by-week. He’s enjoying each moment of every day… something we’re all thankful for!
November 1, 2013 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets | Austrailian Shepherd, Dr. Becker, FCE, fibrocartilaginous embolism, JOMP, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Spinal Cord Stroke | 1 Comment
By Dr. Becker
Obsessive compulsive behaviors occur in many types of animals, including horses, dogs, cats, exotic birds, pigs and many zoo inhabitants.
Two of the most common behaviors in dogs are obsessive licking which results in acral lick dermatitis (ALD), also known as a lick granuloma, and tail chasing.
In cats, common obsessive behaviors include wool-sucking (pica, or the eating of non-food substances) and psychogenic alopecia, which is hair loss and baldness from excessive grooming of the hair and skin.
According to Veterinary Practice News:
"In people with OCD—and by inference in animals exhibiting compulsive behavior—the cycle goes something like this: Anxiety leads to engagement in a repetitive behavior (a compulsion), which affords temporary relief. Later a constantly recurring thought (an obsession) occurs that causes escalating anxiety. Engagement in the compulsion relieves the anxiety, and so the cycle is propagated."
Animals with compulsive disorders tend to be relatively anxious and high strung. It isn’t common to find OCD-type behavior in laidback animals. An anxious nature may be inherited, however, research indicates a component of ‘nurture,’ for example, a high conflict situation, is necessary for expression of a compulsive behavior.
In considering treatment for a pet with OCD, according to Veterinary Practice News:
"Environmental enrichment alone will not normally reverse a compulsive disorder, but a stress-free, user-friendly environment can prevent compulsive behavior from developing in the first place and make relapse less likely after successful pharmacological treatment."
Preventing a dog or cat from performing a compulsive behavior by physically restraining the animal in some way only leads to more anxiety, not less.
Dr. Becker’s Comments:
Unfortunately, I see a lot of pet dog and cat obsessive compulsive disorders in my practice.
It’s a curse among the many blessings of modern day life and convenience. As much as we love the animals we share our lives with, and as concerned as we are about their health and happiness, very few of us are in a position to allow our pets to live according to their true canine or feline nature.
In my recent interview with Ted Kerasote, we talked about understanding the essential nature of dogs, and how left to their own devices, our canine companions would live extremely active lives, with tremendous amounts of outdoor activity. This is their genetic destiny as descendants of wolves.
Our kitties are natural loners, hunters and athletes. Their place in our lives as indoor-only feline royalty really doesn’t afford them the opportunity to flex their genetic muscles.
Suggestions to Prevent, Control or Reduce OCD in Your Pet
First things first: optimize the physical health of your dog or cat.
- Feed a balanced, species-appropriate diet. Species-appropriate nutrition is the foundation of your pet’s vibrant health and longevity. We are what we eat, and that goes for your companion as well. Feed him what nature designed him to eat.
- Provide for a sound, resilient body – frame and organs – through regular and consistent exercise. Your pet should have good muscle tone … healthy body weight … strong heart, lungs, kidney, liver and other organs … and a clean mouth.
- Insure a balanced, functional immune system. Balance is the key here. Your pet’s immune system should be strong enough to protect her from disease, but not over-reactive to the point of creating allergies and autoimmune disease.
If your dog or cat is well-nourished with species-appropriate food, is in good physical condition from plenty of heart-thumping exercise, and is neither over vaccinated nor over medicated, congratulations! You’ve already built a fantastically solid foundation for excellent physical and mental health in your pet.
I don’t see too many extremely healthy, physically active animals with intractable OCD at Natural Pet (my animal hospital).
I also recommend you take your dog or cat to the vet for a wellness exam to insure the source of the obsessive behavior is indeed behavioral and not a physical condition, such as thyroid disease, which needs to be addressed.
If Your Pet is a Dog
Most dogs, especially larger breeds, just aren’t as physically active as they’re designed to be. It can be a challenge to tire out a big dog, especially one of the working or sporting breeds.
If your dog is performing compulsive behaviors, try increasing his exercise. Some suggestions:
- Walks and hikes
- Take your dog for a swim
- Play fetch-the-ball
- Play a game of tug-of-war
- Bike ride with a special dog bike leash
- Play hide-and-seek with treats and toys
- Roller blade or jog alongside your dog
- Get involved in obedience or tracking events, flyball, agility or other sports
I also recommend you help your dog stay mentally stimulated with chew toys and treat-release toys like the Clever K-9. Also place small treats around the house for her to discover, along with other favorite toys.
You might also consider investing in a D.A.P.™ collar or diffuser for your dog. D.A.P.™ is an acronym for Dog Appeasing Pheromone and is designed to have a calming affect on dogs. The collar seems to work well for many dog owners with pups suffering from stress-related behaviors.
If You’re Owned by a Cat
Changes in routine are extremely stressful for kitties. When you disrupt your pet’s routine, it translates to him as a loss of control over his very survival.
If a cat in your household is exhibiting OCD behaviors, the first thing you’ll want to do is dramatically limit the number of unusual external events your pet is exposed to.
Cats are independent. They like to set their own schedules, exert full control over their environment, and depend only on themselves for survival.
Just because your beloved feline lives in the house with you doesn’t mean he’s lost his drive to rule the roost. So the more you can do to help your cat feel in control and not an alien in a foreign land, the less stress he’ll endure.
Some suggestions for environmental enrichment for your kitty:
- Feeding and routine care (litter box scooping, brushing, etc.) should happen at the same time each day.
- Keep food bowls and litter boxes in the same spot – don’t move them around unnecessarily.
- Keep litter boxes clean, as well as bedding.
- Provide an assortment of appropriate cat toys, hiding boxes, scratching posts/trees, etc., and make sure your pet has plenty, if not constant access to these goodies.
- Consider playing soothing music for an hour or two each day.
You might also consider treat or food-dispensing toys for cats, window perches, and kitty videos.
Pharmacotherapy for Pet OCD
As you might have guessed, I’m not a big fan of the use of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac and Zoloft) or N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) blockers in the treatment of obsessive behaviors in animals.
They are sometimes appropriate in extreme, intractable cases and/or when an animal is causing harm to himself. Sometimes they can be used as an interim measure to interrupt the cycle of behavior at the same time other less harmful remedies are being attempted.
But my general recommendation is to try a wide variety of natural remedies first, since every drug has side effects.
October 6, 2013 Posted by justonemorepet | animal behavior, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | ALD, Dr. Becker, licking, OCD, Pet OCD, Pharmacotherapy | 2 Comments
- Nowadays, when pet owning couples break up, it’s less likely the family dog or cat (or bird or other companion animal) will be viewed as just another piece of property to be distributed.
- Both pet owners and those in the business of settling divorces realize pet custody issues can be as thorny as child custody disputes. These days, divorce mediators and judges are more apt to consider the best interests of the pet.
- In deciding who should get custody, the courts take into consideration such things as which party takes care of the animal’s basic daily needs, veterinary visits, socialization and training, and who is better equipped financially to care for a pet.
- Couples who are splitting up should keep their pet’s interests in mind and make custody decisions based on providing the best care and stability for the animal.
- Depending on many factors including the type of animal involved, it makes sense for some couples to share custody, while others will do the right thing by relinquishing a beloved pet to the person better able to care for it.
By Dr. Becker
Not so long ago, when couples got divorced, their pets were viewed as property to be divvied up right along with the furniture and fine china. And in fact, in the eyes of the law, that’s what a pet is – personal property. But more recently, with both divorce and pet ownership rates soaring, pet custody has become a stickier issue when couples split up.
Pets are often viewed as family members these days, and divorcing couples are more apt to battle each other for the right to keep a beloved dog or cat. In recognition of the human-animal bond, and because pet custody is a sensitive subject not unlike child custody disputes, divorce mediators and family court judges are recognizing the need to consider what’s best for the pet.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF):1
"Although animals are considered property in the eyes of the law at this time, some courts are beginning to recognize that one’s relationship with this particular form of property known as the family cat, dog, bird etc., is much different from one’s relationship with other forms of property such as your couch, your watch or your coffee pot."
In deciding who should be awarded custody of a family pet, the court may consider such things as:
- Which party takes care of the animal’s basic daily needs for such things as food, shelter, potty walks or litter box maintenance, exercise, grooming, and supervision?
- Who takes the pet to the veterinarian?
- In the case of a dog, which party insures he gets plenty of social interaction with other dogs and people, and sees to his training?
- Who has the greatest ability to financially support the pet?
If you and your spouse or significant other (or roommate, in some cases) are splitting up and there is a pet involved, my hope is that you will put the animal’s best interests first.
Doing What’s Best for Your Pet
Some “who gets the pet” situations are clearer than others. For example, if you came into the relationship with a pet, that pet should stay with you unless for some reason your spouse or partner developed more of a bond with the animal than you did. Also, if your pet is much more attached to one of you, in most cases he or she will be the person who assumes custody.
Equally obvious is what to do in situations where one or the other of you is moving to a residence that doesn’t allow pets. In that case, you can consider having the non-custodial owner visit the pet, or take her for walks, or to the dog park, or on vacation.
If you and your spouse share joint custody of children, you might think about having your pet go back and forth between residences with the kids. This plan can work with dogs, but not so much with cats, who attach to a familiar environment. Most kitties will suffer stress-related issues if forced to shuttle back and forth between homes.
If there is more than one pet and they can be easily separated, all other things being equal, it might make sense for each of you to take a pet. Another option, if there is only one pet, is for the person keeping it to help the other party with the cost of acquiring a new pet.
Pets Need Consistency – Especially During and After a Family Breakup
Your dog or cat should live where there’s an established daily routine in which things happen on a predictable schedule. For example, if one of you is always home by 5:30pm while the other works a lot of overtime, the pet should spend most of his time with the spouse who’s home in the evenings.
If you don’t work, work from home, or are able to bring your pet to work with you, it makes sense for the pet to stay with you. Like kids, pets do best when there’s a parent around to supervise and keep them company.
If you and your ex are both able to provide consistent care for your pet and want to share custody, it’s best for the sake of stability and consistency not to shuttle your dog back and forth too frequently (and I don’t recommend shuttling kitties at all). If you can work out a monthly arrangement, it’s preferable to a weekly back-and-forth schedule.
If you’re sharing joint custody of a pet or pets, as part of your separation negotiation, it’s a really good idea to decide ahead of time who will be responsible for which pet-related expenses. This would include regular wellness exams, unplanned visits to the vet, and emergency care. You might want to look into pet health insurance plans as well.
October 6, 2013 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Political Change, responsible pet ownership, We Are All God's Creatures | Dr. Becker, JOMP, pet custody, Pets Are Family | 2 Comments
Pancreatitis is inflammation of your pet’s pancreas that can disrupt its normal functions. This is often a serious issue, as the pancreas has two vital functions: it secretes insulin, which balances blood sugar, and it secretes digestive enzymes — amylase, lipase and proteases.
Fever, lethargy, dehydration, abdominal pain, anorexia, vomiting and diarrhea in both dogs and cats can all have roots in pancreatitis.
What’s even more interesting about pancreatitis is that inflammation of the pancreas can be very, very mild or it can be extremely life-threatening and even fatal in some cases.
Inflammation of the pancreas is becoming more recognized as a problem in veterinary medicine and in fact brand new research states that up to 40 percent of cats that were autopsied had lesions of pancreatitis. Those cats didn’t die of a pancreatic problem, so we’re recognizing that the pancreas is not only a vital organ but one that may be increasingly prone to injury and damage secondary to other disease processes.
I think the increase in diagnosed cases is partly because vets are beginning to check for it more often, but there seem to be other factors contributing as well.
Why Pancreatitis Occurs
As a holistic veterinarian, I don’t think it’s a fluke or happenstance that the pancreas has become more and more attacked as an organ. We know that the high carbohydrate-based diets that most dogs and cats eat are extremely taxing to pets’ insulin levels, which are, in turn, taxing to the pancreas.
In addition, the foods that we feed our dogs and cats are entirely processed and devoid of natural enzymes, which help supplement your pet’s diet and reduce pancreatic stress. So, the pancreas really may live in a state of chronic inflammation and stress because the average American pet diet is dead (processed at high temperatures to create an extensive shelf life) and is therefore devoid of any naturally occurring amylase, lipase and protease enzymes that would naturally be found in raw foods. The canned or kibble (dry food) diet that you feed your pet causes the pancreas to have to secrete an abundance of digestive enzymes. If the pancreas fails to perform adequately, pancreatitis results.
There are also some drugs that are well known to incite episodes of pancreatitis. For instance, anti-seizure drugs such as Potassium Bromide or Phenobarbital are well known to predispose pets to pancreatitis.
Prednisone and other catabolic steroids are also well known to cause pancreatitis. Even the diuretic Lasix (Furosemide®), has been implicated in pancreatitis attacks in dogs and cats.
However, diet also plays into recurrent pancreatitis episodes. Many cats and dogs eat a diet that is much too high in fat and we know that fat is also an inciting cause of low-grade, recurrent pancreatitis.
Certain breeds, such as Miniature Schnauzers may also have a genetic predisposition to having recurrent pancreatitis, and German Shepherds can be born with pancreatic insufficiency causing enzyme deficiency symptoms from birth.
Pancreatitis Often Recurs
If you’ve been through the nightmare of pancreatitis, you know all too well that number one, it is very scary, and number two, many animals require hospitalization and very intense medical therapy to pull them through the crisis.
What you may not know is that pancreatitis often recurs. You can easily spend thousands of dollars getting your pet stabilized with each occurrence of pancreatitis, and I wish I could tell you that just putting your pet on a low-residue, low-fat diet will eliminate their future risk. Unfortunately, the fact is that many pets end up with recurrent pancreatitis.
Diagnosis of Pancreatitis
Veterinarians diagnose pancreatitis through a blood test called the PLI (Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity) Test. Your veterinarian may suggest that you run a PLI test if he or she suspects your pet may be dealing with pancreatitis.
There are also two pancreatic enzymes, lipase and amylase, that can be elevated on traditional blood work when animals have pancreatitis, but most veterinarians rely on the PLI test for an accurate and quick diagnostic test to determine if your pet has pancreatic inflammation.
What to do if Your Pet Has Pancreatitis
If your pet has failed the PLI, which means the PLI levels are elevated beyond what they should be for your dog or cat, you should seek medical attention — especially if your pet is vomiting, lethargic, dealing with anorexia or has a fever.
After the crisis has passed, the very best “insurance” that you can buy to lower your pet’s chances of having a repeat episode is to supply them with a rich source of digestive enzymes.
We know that dogs’ and cats’ pancreases cannot secrete enough digestive enzymes to adequately process their foods. Dogs and cats were meant to acquire supplemental enzymes from the foods they consumed: living foods that contained abundant enzymes.
Historically dogs and cats consumed parts of their preys’ GI tracts which provided adequate enzymes for them to process their food. Carnivores also consumed their preys’ glands, including pancreatic tissue, which was a rich source of naturally occurring enzymes.
Although we advocate feeding a balanced, raw food diet, we don’t recommend feeding stomach contents of prey species, as this is how parasites can be transmitted to your pets. This means even pets consuming a species appropriate, raw food diet can be enzyme deficient.
By you supplying a source of digestive enzymes in their diet, either by feeding pancreatic tissue (which is unappealing to most pet owners) or a supplement, , you can help reduce the stress and strain the pancreas is under to continually come up with enough enzymes to process t food.
Mercola Healthy Pets is coming out with an excellent pet enzyme that I highly recommend. If you have pets that are dealing with pancreatitis, have dealt with pancreatitis, or if you want to reduce the likelihood of your pet exhibiting symptoms of pancreatitis, adding digestive enzymes to their food at mealtime is a perfect way to help avoid future complications and reduce pancreatic stress.
October 2, 2013 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal Related Education, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition | Dr. Becker, pancreatitis, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pet Pancreatitis, PLI | 3 Comments
- Once a huge advocate of spaying or neutering every dog early in life, after being in private practice for a few years, Dr. Becker noticed many of her canine patients were developing endocrine-related disorders. After a conversation with an expert in the field of veterinary endocrinology, Dr. Becker realized her practice of insisting on early spays or neuters for every dog patient had left many of them with serious health problems.
- Dr. Becker quickly changed her recommendation for her patients from automatic spays or neuters, and the younger the better, to a more holistic approach in which surgeries, including sterilization and de-sexing, should only be performed when there’s a medical necessity. She also believes shelter pets should be sterilized rather than de-sexed (spayed or neutered) in order to preserve their sex hormones.
- Scientific evidence is mounting that gonad removal can deliver serious consequences to a dog’s future health. Among those consequences: shortened lifespan, atypical Cushing’s disease, cardiac tumors, bone cancer, abnormal bone growth and development, CCL ruptures, and hip dysplasia.
- Options to traditional full spays and neuters are hard to come by both in the U.S. and Canada, because veterinary schools don’t teach alternative sterilization procedures. Fortunately, we’re slowly waking up to the fact that spaying and neutering – especially in very young animals — are creating health problems that are non-existent or significantly less prevalent in intact pets.
- Ownership of an intact dog, male or female, is not for everyone. It takes time, effort, vigilance, and often, a thick skin. Dr. Becker discusses the ins and outs of owning an intact male or female dog and the steps necessary to prevent pregnancy.
- For those who are up for the ownership of an intact dog, or even a pair, it can be an amazing experience! (JOMP)
By Dr. Becker
Whenever I discuss scientific evidence related to the health risks of spaying and neutering here at Mercola Healthy Pets or on my Facebook page, I receive a lot of negative feedback from people who are absolutely certain I’m encouraging pet overpopulation and irresponsible pet ownership. So, I decided to make a video to explain to those who are standing in judgment why nothing could be further from the truth.
I Was Once a Huge Advocate of Spaying or Neutering Every Dog at an Early Age
I started volunteering at an animal shelter when I was 13 years old. I started working there when I was 14. I cleaned cages. By the time I was 17, I had become certified as a euthanasia technician by the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine. The ten years I spent working at a kill shelter and the exposure to certain clients and cases in my veterinary practice over the years have taught me more than I ever wanted to know or could share in this video about abused, neglected, and unwanted pets.
When I first opened my animal hospital, I was so adamant about my clients spaying their female pets before the first heat cycle, that if they didn’t follow my advice, I really became upset. I tried not to show it outwardly, but I suggested that those clients might be more ethically aligned with another veterinarian who didn’t feel as strongly about the subject as I did.
That was my politically correct way of saying, “Maybe you should go to another vet,” because I would literally lose sleep over having intact patients in my practice. I spayed and neutered thousands of my patients when they were very, very young, assuming I was completing my moral task as an ethical veterinarian.
Five Years into Private Practice, Many of My Canine Patients Began to Develop Endocrine Imbalances and Related Diseases
About five years after my practice opened, many of my patients started to develop endocrine issues. This was obviously very concerning to me, as these animals were not over-vaccinated. They were all eating biologically appropriate, fresh food diets.
The first light bulb went off in my head when I started researching why up to 90 percent of ferrets die of endocrine imbalance, specifically adrenal disease or Cushing’s disease. Mass-bred ferrets that enter the pet trade are desexed at about three weeks of age. The theory behind why most ferrets develop endocrine imbalance is that juvenile desexing creates a sex hormone deficiency, which ultimately taxes the last remaining tissues of the body capable of producing a small amount of sex hormone – the adrenal glands. So I began to wonder… could the same phenomenon be happening with my dog patients?
By 2006, the number of dogs I was diagnosing with hypothyroidism was at an all-time high. Diagnosing low thyroid levels is very easy compared to the complex adrenal testing required to show that a dog has adrenal disease. I started to wonder if hypothyroidism was just a symptom of a deeper hormonal imbalance in many of my patients. Because even after we got those thyroid levels balanced, the dogs still didn’t appear to be vibrantly healthy or entirely well.
I contacted Dr. Jack Oliver, who ran the University of Tennessee’s adrenal lab, and posed my theory to him. I was stunned when he told me that indeed adrenal disease was occurring at epidemic proportions in dogs in the U.S. and was certainly tied to sex hormone imbalance. Now, whether veterinarians were testing and identifying the epidemic was a whole different story.
In a Flash of Recognition, I Knew My Insistence on Desexing All My Patients at a Young Age Had Created Serious Health Problems for Many of Them
At this point, I became overwhelmed with guilt. For many years, I insisted my clients follow my advice to spay or neuter their pets at or before six months of age. It hit me like a lightning bolt that I was making this suggestion not based on what was physiologically best for my patients, but rather what I felt was morally best for their owners.
As all of the patients that I desexed at a young age cycled through, many of them with irreversible metabolic diseases, I started apologizing to my clients. I apologized to my patients as well. Through my blanket recommendation that all pets be desexed because humans may be irresponsible with an intact animal, I had inadvertently made many of my patients very ill. As a doctor, this revelation was devastating.
I began changing my recommendations on spaying and neutering. I advised my clients to leave their pets intact. Now, you must realize my veterinary practice is filled with wildly committed owners. I am not dealing with uneducated, uncaring, or unreliable clients.
Of course, there were and are exceptions to my advice against desexing. But in general, my recommendation as a holistic vet is to perform any surgery – including spaying and neutering – only when it’s a medical necessity and not an elective procedure.
I recently adopted a stray Dachshund who is intact, and I plan to leave him intact. I am an intact female myself. I am proud to say that I have not experienced a single unplanned pregnancy in my personal life or in my career at my practice as a holistic vet catering to thousands of intact animals.
If you are an irresponsible pet owner who allows your intact pet outside without a leash and direct supervision, this video is not for you. Please sterilize your pet before allowing him or her outside again, as you are contributing to the overpopulation problem. Please rethink how you care for your pet, or consider not having pets.
My Views on Sterilization of Shelter Pets
The subject of spay/neuter is a huge one, and if I were to attempt to cover every aspect of it, this video would be three hours long. Suffice it to say that until we get our nation’s shelter systems revamped, animals will continue to be spayed as juveniles. For now, that’s that. We won’t change anything with this video. Are we pushing for shelter vets to learn ovary-sparing techniques that allow for sterilization without sex hormone obliteration? Yes. But for now, that isn’t happening.
I could have made a dozen different choices in my professional career that would have been satisfying, including being a shelter vet. If I were a shelter vet right now, I would be pushing for sterilization techniques that preserve normal endocrine function. I chose the path of a wellness veterinarian because that resonated the most with my personal goals in life. As I’ve explained, I’ve made many mistakes. I’ve apologized directly to the owners and the dogs that I desexed as puppies before I knew any better.
I am as committed as ever to preventing and treating illness in individual family pets. I’m not, however, advocating the adoption of intact animals to people who may or may not be responsible pet owners. Shelter vets don’t have the luxury of building relationships with their adoptive families, so all the animals in their care must be sterilized prior to adoption. I totally agree with this. I don’t necessarily agree with the method of sterilization being used.
Why I Believe Sterilization, Not Desexing, Is the Better Option
As a proactive veterinarian, I have dedicated my life to keeping animals well. I have learned and continue to learn the best ways to help pets stay healthy and the reasons disease occurs. I am also a holistically oriented vet, which means I view animals as a whole – not just a collection of body parts or symptoms.
I believe there is a purpose for each organ we are born with, and that organ systems are interdependent. I believe removing any organ – certainly including all the organs of reproduction – will have health consequences. It’s inevitable. It’s simply common sense.
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that desexing dogs, especially at an early age, can create health and behavior problems. When I use the term “desexing,” I’m referring to the traditional spay and neuter surgery where all the sex hormone-secreting tissues are removed. When I use the term “sterilization,” I’m referring to animals that can no longer reproduce, but maintain their sex hormone-secreting tissues.
In my view, I would not be fulfilling my obligation as an animal healthcare professional if I chose to ignore the scientific evidence and not pass it on to Healthy Pets readers and the clients at my practice who entrust me with the well being of their animals.
Health Issues Linked to Spaying and Neutering Dogs
Before I discuss some of the health issues now associated with desexing dogs, first let me point out that there are two medical conditions that actually can be totally eliminated by desexing: benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH (enlarged prostate), and pyometra (a disease of the uterus). However, a wealth of information is mounting that preserving innate sex hormones, especially in the first years of life, may be beneficial to pets, whereas the risk of pyometra or BPH in an animal’s first year of life is incredibly low.
Recent research has also discredited a couple of myths about the supposed benefits of early spays and neuters, including:
- A study from the U.K. suggests there isn’t much scientific evidence at all to support the idea that early spaying of female dogs decreases or eliminates future risk of mammary tumors or breast cancer. This has been a much promoted supposed benefit of early spays for decades. But as it turns out, it’s based on theory rather than scientific evidence.
- Similar to the situation with early spaying and mammary tumors, there’s a common belief that neutering a male dog prevents prostate cancer. However, a small study conducted at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine suggests that neutering – no matter the age – has no effect on the development of prostate cancer.
And now for some of the disorders and diseases linked to spaying/neutering:
Shortened lifespan. A study conducted and published in 2009 by the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation established a link between the age at which female Rottweilers are spayed and how long they live. Researchers compared long-lived Rotties that lived for 13 years or more with those who lived a normal lifespan of about 9 years. They discovered that while females live longer than males, removing the ovaries of female Rottweilers before five years of age evened the score. Females who kept their ovaries until at least 6 years of age were four times more likely to reach an exceptional age compared to Rotties who were spayed at a younger age.
I spayed my rescued Rottie, Isabelle, when I adopted her at seven years of age. She lived to be 17, and she was still unbelievably vibrant at 17. She slipped on the floor in a freak accident and became paralyzed, which ultimately led to her euthanasia. But she was the oldest and healthiest Rottweiler I have ever met.
With Isabelle, I provided literally no medical care because she didn’t need it. Her body naturally thrived throughout her life. I fed her a balanced raw diet. I checked her bloodwork every six months, which was perfect until the day she died. Isabelle was a great example of a thriving pet that lived above the level of disease. I believe her sex hormones greatly contributed to her longevity and her abundantly healthy life.
Atypical Cushing’s disease. It’s my professional opinion that early spaying and neutering plays a role in the development of atypical Cushing’s disease as well. Typical Cushing’s means the middle layer of the adrenal gland is over-secreting cortisol. Atypical Cushing’s involves the outer and innermost layers of the adrenal glands and occurs when other types of hormones are over-produced, usually estrogen and progesterone.
When a dog is spayed or neutered before puberty, the endocrine, glandular and hormonal systems have not yet fully developed. A complete removal of the gonads, resulting in stopping production of all the body’s sex hormones (which is what happens during castration or the traditional spay), can force the adrenal glands to produce sex hormones because they’re the only remaining tissue in the body that can secrete them.
Over time, the adrenal glands become taxed from doing their own work plus the work of the missing gonads. It’s very difficult for these tiny little glands to keep up with the body’s demand for sex hormones. This is the condition of atypical Cushing’s. Hormone disruption is a central feature in Cushing’s disease. Any substance or procedure that affects the body’s hormonal balance should be absolutely evaluated as a potential root cause.
Cardiac tumors. A Veterinary Medical Database search of the years 1982 to 1985 revealed that in dogs with tumors of the heart, the relative risk for spayed females was over four times that of intact females. For the most common type of cardiac tumor, hemangiosarcoma, spayed females had a greater than five times risk vs. their intact counterparts. Neutered males had a slightly higher risk than intact males as well.
Bone cancer. In another Rottweiler study published 10 years ago for both males and females spayed or neutered before one year of age, there was a one in four lifetime risk of developing bone cancer. Desexed Rotties were significantly more likely to acquire the disease than intact dogs. In another study using the Veterinary Medical Database for 1980 to 1984, the risk of bone cancer in large-breed, purebred dogs increased two-fold for those dogs that were also desexed.
Abnormal bone growth and development. Studies done in the 1990s concluded dogs spayed or neutered under one year of age grew significantly taller than non-sterilized dogs or those dogs spayed or neutered after puberty. The earlier the spay or neuter procedure, the taller the dog. Research published in 2000 may explain why: it appears that the removal of estrogen-producing organs in immature dogs – both females and males – can cause growth plates to remain open. These animals continue to grow and wind up with abnormal growth patterns and bone structure. This results in irregular body proportions, possible cartilage issues, and joint conformation issues.
Higher rate of CCL ruptures. A study conducted at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center on cranial cruciate ligament injuries concluded that spayed and neutered dogs had a significantly higher incidence of rupture than their intact counterparts. While large-breed dogs had more CCL injuries, sterilized or desexed dogs of all breeds and sizes had an increased rupture rate.
Hip dysplasia. In a retrospective cohort study conducted at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, results showed that both male and female dogs sterilized at an early age were more prone to hip dysplasia.
Breed-specific effects of spay/neuter. A recent study conducted at the University of California Davis involving several hundred Golden Retrievers revealed that for the incidence of hip dysplasia, CCL tears, lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumors, the rates were significantly higher in both males and females that were neutered or spayed compared with intact dogs.
Other health concerns. Early spaying or neutering is commonly associated with urinary incontinence in female dogs and has been linked to increased incidence of urethral sphincter incontinence in males.
Spayed or neutered Golden Retrievers are much more likely to develop hypothyroidism.
A cohort study of shelter dogs conducted by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University concluded that infectious diseases were more common in dogs that were spayed and neutered at under 24 weeks of age.
The AKC’s Canine Health Foundation issued a report pointing to higher incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines in spayed and neutered dogs as well.
Among the reports and studies pointing to health concerns associated with early spaying and neutering, we also find mention of increased incidence of behavior problems, including noise phobias, fear behavior, aggression, and undesirable sexual behaviors.
Options to Traditional Spaying and Neutering
Veterinarians in the U.S. and Canada are trained only to spay and neuter, which is unfortunate since there are less invasive alternatives, such as tubal ligation, hysterectomy, and vasectomy. These techniques are quick and easy and certainly effective. In fact, commonly, once the technique is mastered, they’re faster, less risky and potentially less costly than a full spay or neuter.
But unfortunately, nobody knows how to do them in this country. The reason they’re hard to come by is because U.S. veterinary schools simply don’t teach these alternative procedures. They’ve never had a reason to. And until pet owners start demanding sterilization options beyond spaying and neutering, the status quo will remain.
As author Ted Kerasote and I have discussed on numerous occasions, in many European countries, there are intact free-roaming dogs running about under voice control of their owners. When female dogs go into heat, owners simply manage the situation by removing them from group social events until their heat cycle is complete. They’re kept at home, sequestered away from males. They’re walked on a leash.
Ted tells the story of a British veterinarian he interviewed who said most of the requests he gets to neuter dogs come from U.S. and Canadian citizens who are living in London. Rather than immediately complying with the request, the veterinarian talks with the pet owner about the actual necessity to desex the dog. For example, if the dog is always on a leash and always under the owner’s control, then how exactly would the dog become pregnant (or mate with a female) if it’s constantly with the owner and never off leash? The veterinarian says that he rarely has a British pet owner request a spay or neuter procedure.
Most Americans can’t even comprehend that it’s possible to keep intact pet dogs and not have millions of litters of unwanted puppies. That’s because we’ve been conditioned to believe that a responsible pet owner means spaying and neutering your dog. I was taught to believe the same thing — that keeping an intact pet was considered irresponsible even if the owner is meticulously careful about not allowing the pet to breed.
Of course, our dependence on spaying and neutering as the only form of birth control is the result of generations of irresponsible pet owners and millions of unwanted dogs and cats that are killed annually in our animal shelters.
It is a vicious cycle, and it’s a very frustrating cycle to witness. Irresponsible people need to have sterilized pets. No one’s going to argue that point. Unfortunately, spaying and neutering responsible people’s pets doesn’t make irresponsible people any more responsible. They remain the root cause of the overpopulation crisis in this country.
My problem with the spaying and neutering issue is it’s the only current solution to the overpopulation problem. We’re not just halting the animal’s ability to reproduce, we are also removing incredibly valuable sex hormone-secreting tissues like the ovaries and the testes. These organs serve a purpose.
We’re slowly waking up to the fact that in our rush to spay or neuter every possible animal we can get our hands on – the younger, the better – we are creating health problems, sometimes life-threatening health problems, that are non-existent or significantly less prevalent in intact pets.
Responsible Ownership of an Intact Female Dog
First of all, you should know that not everyone is cut out to be the owner of an intact male or female dog. Part of the popularity of full spays and neuters vs. other means of sterilization is that it’s just plain convenient for pet owners. Not only do spays and neuters render the animal unable to reproduce, but they also remove all of the messiness of female heat cycles and most of the pet’s key mating behaviors for both sexes.
Female dogs don’t have monthly periods like humans do. They have one, or usually two heats a year. You can typically tell a female heat cycle is on its way when your intact female’s vulva begins to enlarge. Just like humans there’s bleeding involved, but unlike human females who are not fertile during menstruation, dogs are just the opposite. Female dogs can get pregnant only during heats for about three to four days as unfertilized eggs ripen in their bodies.
Some dogs will signal during this time by flagging, which means lifting the tail base up and to the side. Some females will stand and can be mounted at any time during their heat cycle, including before and after they’re pregnant or fertile. Others show no behavior signs whatsoever. Owners of intact female dogs must be certain of the signs of heat in their pets, so that they can separate them from male dogs during this important time.
Never underestimate the determination of an intact male dog that wants to mate with a female dog in heat. I’m telling you, if you have a female dog, male dogs will come visit her from across a tri-state area because she’s putting out some very attractive pheromones.
With proper training, reinforcement, and constant supervision, however, male dogs can learn to be in the presence of a female while supervised, even when she’s in heat, without mating. Some people with both an intact male and female don’t want to put the effort into managing male dogs around cycling females and simply ship them off to a friend or relative’s house until the heat cycle is over.
If you have a female dog in heat, you should never leave her outside alone even for a second. It doesn’t matter if you have a fenced-in yard. If there’s an unsupervised male around, there’s absolutely a risk of impregnation through the fence (or over the fence, or under the fence).
The heat cycle of a female dog lasts about three weeks, but the menstrual bleeding can be unpredictable during that time. It’s neither consistently heavy nor is it every day, all day. Many owners of intact female dogs invest in special diapers or panties that can hold a sanitary napkin to contain the discharge.
At my house we just get a baby gate, and we gate our special lady of the month in the kitchen area. We put a dog bed in there, and then we just mop a couple of times a day. Typically, female dogs are incredibly good at keeping themselves very clean. Most of the time, there’s very little mess.
Responsible Ownership of an Intact Male Dog
Intact males should receive positive reinforcement behavior training to stop urine marking in the house as well as any humping behavior that may occur.
The intact, male, adult Dachsie we just rescued – his name is Lenny – became Lenny Loincloth after a few days in our house for obvious reasons. He acquired his last name because he marked absolutely every corner of every piece of furniture we own. To reduce this totally undesirable behavior and reinforce healthy housebreaking, we put a belly band on him. We call it his loincloth. It’s a little diaper that holds his penis to his abdomen. Dogs innately do not want to urinate on themselves; they want to pee and mark on objects. By belly banding him, we reinforce good behavior like going potty outside and not marking in the house. I’m proud to say that in one month’s time, we’ve really helped him kick his marking habit for the most part.
Constant positive reinforcement was really necessary with Lenny, as it is with all dogs. We also discovered the first day Lenny was in our house that he liked to hump everything in sight. He preferred humping pillows and dog beds. We simply picked those pillows and dog beds up. We didn’t give him access to objects that tempted his undesirable behavior. He hasn’t humped anything in three weeks. So there are ways to positively reinforce good behavior and extinguish negative intact male dog behaviors if you put in the effort.
Your unneutered male should never be off-leash unless you are absolutely sure you won’t run into an intact female dog or he’s under constant voice control around all dogs. You also need to be in control of your dog while he’s leashed. If your intact male or female dog is able to jerk away from you when he or she gets excited, then your dog is not under your control despite the leash.
I recommend positive reinforcement behavior training for all dogs, especially intact dogs. And it’s an absolute necessity for powerfully built, intact male dogs. Remaining in obedience class for a dog’s first 16 months of life is an excellent foundation for good manners for the rest of his life.
If your dog becomes assertive, desexing (a full neuter) can be an important part of managing long-term behavior issues. Again, in this instance, if you have an aggressive dog, we must evaluate the risks vs. benefits. The health benefits of leaving a temperamental dog intact do not outweigh the greater risk of this aggressive animal being re-homed, dumped, or abused – or hurting another animal or human. With behavior issues, spaying or neutering can be a logical choice. It’s better to have endocrine disease but be in a loving home, than be disease-free but dumped at a kill shelter for a behavior problem.
Keep in mind that out in the world, at least in North America, you and your intact dog will not have a whole lot of company in this day and age. You won’t be able to take your dog everywhere a spayed or neutered dog is allowed to go. If your dog is a male, prepare to deal with plenty of prying questions and even anger from people who will pre-judge you as totally irresponsible.
When Lenny sees people, he flops on his back and says, “Hello, hello, hello!” Everyone’s comment is, “What are those?” And then “When are those coming off,” pointing to his testicles.
What About My Cat?
Luckily, thus far, research has shown that our feline companions don’t have the same negative long-term physiologic consequences associated with desexing that plague our canine population. We may identify potential links in the future, but thus far, it appears our canine companions are more negatively affected by spaying or neutering.
I made this video so you could understand why I no longer take a cookie-cutter approach to desexing all juvenile pets. The decision to sterilize, spay, or neuter your pet, at what age, and with what technique is a very personal decision that is based on your dog’s breed, temperament, personality, and your commitment to training, lifestyle management, and responsible pet ownership.
October 2, 2013 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | being part of a pack, common sense, Desexing Pets, Dr. Becker, emale dog heat cycles, for the love of a pet, incontinence in pets, intact cats, intact dogs, Neutering Pets, pet parenting, Spaying Pets, until one has loved an animal | 7 Comments
Save a Life…Adopt Just One More…Pet!
Everyday we read or hear another story about pets and other animals being abandoned in record numbers while at the same time we regularly hear about crazy new rules and laws being passed limiting the amount of pets that people may have, even down to one or two… or worse yet, none.
Nobody is promoting hoarding pets or animals, but at a time when there are more pets and animals of all types being abandoned or being taken to shelters already bursting at the seams, there is nothing crazier than legislating away the ability of willing adoptive families to take in just one more pet!!
Our goal is to raise awareness and help find homes for all pets and animals that need one by helping to match them with loving families and positive situations. Our goal is also to help fight the trend of unfavorable legislation and rules in an attempt to stop unnecessary Euthenization!!
“All over the world, major universities are researching the therapeutic value of pets in our society and the number of hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and mental institutions which are employing full-time pet therapists and animals is increasing daily.” ~ Betty White, American Actress, Animal Activist, and Author of Pet Love
So if you have the room in your home and the love in your heart… Adopt Just One More Pet or consider becoming a Foster parent for pets… Also check out: Little Critter: Just One More Pet
Photos By: Marion Algier – The UCLA Shutterbug
There is always room for Just One More Pet. So if you have room in your home and room in your heart… Adopt Just One More! If you live in an area that promotes unreasonable limitations on pets… fight the good fight and help change the rules and legislation…
Save the Life of Just One More…Animal!
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If you can adopt or foster just one more pet, you could be saving a life, while adding joy to your own! Our shelters are over-flowing… Please join the fight to make them all ‘NO-Kill’ facilities.
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If You Were Stranded On An Island…A recent national survey revealed just how much Americans love their companion animals. When respondents were asked whether they’d like to spend life stranded on a deserted island with either their spouse or their pet, over 60% said they would prefer their dog or cat for companionship!